Johnson & Johnson: 60 Years of Safety Vision

Sixty years ago, Johnson & Johnson published a statement declaring working conditions must be "clean, orderly and safe." The company continues to stand by that credo for 108,300 employees at its facilities in the United Sates and in 54 countries around the world.

By Sandy Smith

Called "Our Credo," it is a statement of guiding principles used by Johnson & Johnson to fulfill its responsibilities to customers, employees, communities and stockholders.

The second paragraph of the credo is very specific with respect to employees. It states, "We are responsible to our employees, the men and women who work with us throughout the world. Everyone must be considered as an individual. We must respect their dignity and recognize their merit. They must have a sense of security in their jobs. Compensation must be fair and adequate, and working conditions clean, orderly and safe. ... Employees must feel free to make suggestions and complaints..."

The safety tenets embodied in the credo have been translated into a safety vision for the corporation that commits Johnson & Johnson to being the world leader in health and safety by creating an injury-free workplace.

"Safety and health are our highest values," says Joseph Van Houten, Ph.D., CSP, worldwide director of Planning, Process Design and Delivery, Johnson & Johnson Safety & Industrial Hygiene. "The ambitious objectives of profits, sales and production do not in any way diminish the importance the company places on safety as a measure of excellence."

The philosophy at Johnson & Johnson is that "All accidents and injuries are preventable. An accident is the end result of a unique chain of events and conditions. The role of all Johnson & Johnson employees is to foresee these acts and intercept them before they occur," says Van Houten.

At Johnson & Johnson, continuous improvement is the basis for ongoing operations. Van Houten admits, "Johnson & Johnson is never satisfied with maintaining the status quo." Each employee has a responsibility to identify, and where possible, eliminate hazards. In areas where they cannot be eliminated, employees are expected to be aware of hazards and safeguard themselves and others around them.

As at many companies with stellar safety programs, Johnson & Johnson management believes safety is everyone''s responsibility. "Employees must consider safety in every task they perform and in every decision they make," Van Houten notes. Employees are expected to be concerned about their own safety and that of fellow employees, families, customers, contractors, visitors and the communities in which Johnson & Johnson operates.

Van Houten says that at Johnson & Johnson, safety is discussed continuously. An employee concern, such as a near-accident, is a warning that must be taken seriously. Each Johnson & Johnson location is expected to have a process to generate regular feedback in order to identify specific problems and hazards that might otherwise be overlooked.

Job training and positive feedback are essential, he adds. "Safe behavior is a critical element of an injury-free workplace. Employees must receive appropriate training on the safe way to approach daily activities and be recognized for their accomplishments," he says.

Finally, says Van Houten, "Safety is a key indicator of organizational excellence. A safe plant typically has high employee morale, high productivity and minimal product defects.

Sidebar: Partnerships for Excellence

Johnson & Johnson, the world''s most comprehensive and broadly based manufacturer of health care products, was recently recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The agency partnered with the company to develop and identify best practices to reduce ergonomic injuries in the workplace.

"We know that Johnson & Johnson recognizes the seriousness of musculoskeletal disorders in their workforce," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw at the signing ceremony on July 22. "We''re delighted that they want to work with us in a cooperative manner that ultimately will benefit thousands of America''s workers. We look forward to the months ahead and the results that will be achieved through our new relationship."

Although the company already has an outstanding ergonomics program, there is always room for improvement. It is that push for continuous improvement that has gotten Johnson & Johnson where it is today in terms of safety.

"Our vision is to be the world leader in health and safety by creating an injury-free workplace," said Ather Williams Jr., Johnson & Johnson vice president for Worldwide Safety and Industrial Hygiene, at the signing ceremony. "This partnership is an important step on this journey."

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